Series on Assertiveness: Communicating Assertively

How important is it to effectively get across a point of view, most politely and without any offence? The story below demonstrates how assertive communication can go a long way in resolving difficult situations.

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Molly is thinking of quitting her job because of the demands of her boss that crossed her work-life balance boundary. Her boss would typically call, text, and email her questions and change orders at night and on weekends. When Molly tried to address this the last time, the conversation went something like this: Molly: “I really don’t like that I have to respond at night when I always complete everything on time at work and will take care of it first thing in the morning.” Boss: “There are times when I really need you. There are emergencies.”

Here’s where the conversation on Molly’s part ended. The boss wins a point in the match!Molly is tired of making her boss understand how his erratic requests are taking away the peace from her life.

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A few days ago, Molly attended a training program on Assertive Communication. As an action plan, she decided to practice assertive communication with her boss. So when she received yet another erratic text from her boss quoting there was an emergency, here’s how she replied – “That’s understandable and I will definitely be there in a big emergency. It will help if we can take a few minutes to define what constitutes an emergency so that we both have the support and work parameters we need. What would be three examples of emergencies in which I need to respond to at night?”

She really caught her boss off guard as he had never thought of what constituted to emergency. He merely used it as a convenient excuse to cover his inefficiencies.

By asking a question objectively Molly made sure that he boss doesn’t take her for granted. The idea was to collaborate and negotiate as necessary so that the boss feels taken care of and Molly’s boundaries are maintained. Assertive communication is not aggressive and can be strategically applied to every relationship and professional context.